The biggest challenges of Thanksgiving — besides trying to locate it amid retailers’ premature Christmas displays — is the time spent with family.
Some of these are people you may only be seeing for the first or only time in years. Some are a part of your daily life. All are going to get on your nerves at one moment or another on Thanksgiving day, and the points of contention will always be the same: who cooks the meal, who eats what, sports, alcohol consumption, past transgressions, etc.
Many of these can be avoided, however. As one of five kids myself, I’ve had ample opportunity to learn family negotiation skills. These are skills you can use on all your trips — even the ones into your own kitchen.
Know your job
Every family has that one person who wants to do everything — their job, your job, and every little job that arises in between. True confession time: I tend to be that person. Whether through good intentions or know-it-all-ness, this is the opposite of helpful. Once everyone has agreed on a plan, stick to it and don’t step on toes. Or offer to do everything yourself and let everyone else put their feet up for the day.
The opposite of that is that one family member who never lifts a finger to help, even when there is obvious work to be done. Don’t be that guy. Work when everyone else is working. Not sure how to be helpful? Ask. See someone stressing out? Offer to help. Sometimes just offering is enough.
Ask for help
Don’t be the Thanksgiving martyr. This is a holiday of gratitude, not sacrifice. Instead of suffering alone in the kitchen all day, set up all the appetizers in the kitchen with you. This will attract a crowd, and while everyone is in there gnoshing, you can put them to work as needed.
Assume the best
Family can come with a jumbo jet’s worth of baggage. It’s always tempting to interpret communications through the filter of past slights and fights. Start instead with a clean slate. Hear your family members with fresh ears and an open heart. Not sure what someone meant when they said that thing that has you on the verge of tears/boiling rage? Ask. Most communication fails can be chalked up to misunderstanding.
Just eat it
It’s hard to remember in this modern age of dietary restrictions, both voluntary and involuntary, but humans show each other love with food. The casserole your aunt made using your grandmother’s recipe is more than Velveeta and canned corn; it’s a show of love and a sharing of tradition. Whatever your tastes, and unless medically necessary, eat the food. Just taste it. And be complementary.
Life is short. Let me say it again: life is short. Too many members of our community have experienced this firsthand this year. In honor of all of those who can not be here to eat turkey and pie with us this Thursday, let us enjoy one another. Let the little things go and instead celebrate the spirit of this underappreciated holiday.
Give thanks. Share thanks. And Happy Thanksgiving.
Sarah Doolittle, of Steiner Ranch, is an avid volunteer, writer, traveler and mother of three. She speaks four languages and can’t wait to learn more. Besides languages, Sarah has a special talent for eating pastries from around the world.